Before these little cheesecakes, my cheesecake experience was solely and shamelessly limited to this — the seven-ingredient recipe on the back of the Philadelphia cream cheese box. It was five ingredients if you bought the Keebler crust in its own ready-to-go tin, which my college self definitely did, it was easy, and it was good; sometimes I swirled blueberry jam or pumpkin pie filling (the recipe from the Libby’s pumpkin can, naturally) into it and felt fancy even though the pumpkin burned faster than the cheesecake could cook.
I always assumed that at some point I’d graduate to grown-up cheesecake, braving springform pans and water baths and the specter of cracks in the center, but when I found myself a few weeks ago with a little jar of fragrant culinary lavender and an excess of really good Vermont Creamery goat cheese, it was a barely dressed-up version of the good old Philadelphia recipe that I went back to. I just couldn’t bring myself to stray! The cheesecake is just the way I like it, familiar in all the right ways — silky, not the least bit dry or mealy, rich but not too sweet, and finished off with a buttery graham crust. These are just the same as I remember them, except the goat cheese gives it a little bit of sass and a tangy edge, while a teaspoon of finely minced lavender cuts through the rich dairy just right and comes out pure in flavor and fragrantly floral. Topped with a drizzle of honey and a dollop of Greek yogurt or whipped creme fraiche, it’s at least a tad bit grown-up, but still a no-fuss homage to the classic I grew up with. (And I even made the crust.)
Hope you all had the loveliest long weekends!
This yields four small cheesecakes in 4-inch cocottes, ramekins, or springform pans. If you wanted, you could likely bake it in one 9-inch pie pan (not a deep dish or springform) for about 50-55 minutes, or until the outer third is set and the center jiggles gently; you could also bake them in a cupcake tin lined with cupcake liners for about 25-30 minutes, for about 9 or so miniature cheesecakes. Cheesecake will keep at least a week.
- for the crust:
- 5 oz (8 sheets, or one pouch) graham crackers, or roughly 1 cup crumbs
- 5 tbsp melted butter (replace up to 2 tbsp with olive oil, for extra oomph)
- for the cheesecake:
- 8 oz cream cheese, soft and at room temperature
- 4 oz Vermont Creamery fresh goat cheese, soft and at room temperature
- 4 oz Vermont Creamery creamy goat cheese (see Notes for substitutions)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1-2 tsp finely minced culinary lavender, to taste
- 2 large eggs
- Heat oven to 325°F. To make the crust: Crush, blend, or process graham crackers until they form a fine crumb. Add the butter (and olive oil, if using), then stir or process again until the mixture forms the consistency of wet sand. Line four 8-ounce porcelain ramekins, cocottes, or mini springform pans with parchment paper, then divide the graham cracker mixture between the four and press firmly into the bottoms of each ramekin.
- For the filling, make sure all cheeses are soft and at room temperature. Combine all three cheeses and the sugar in a medium bowl and beat vigorously with a fork or an electric beater until smooth. Whisk in the lavender, a teaspoon or half-teaspoon at a time, tasting as you go to make sure it's not too strong. Be sure to very finely mince the lavender, since it can be bitter if left whole.
- Finally, whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until well-incorporated. Divide the cream cheese mixture between the four ramekins.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until center is almost set but jiggles slightly when shaken. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Using the parchment paper lining, lift the cheesecakes gently from the ramekins, place in a large airtight container, and chill in the refrigerator until cold, about 2-3 hours or overnight.
- If desired, you can drizzle a little honey over top and add some Greek yogurt or whipped cream -- or, if you want to make a Vermont Creamery day of it, some whipped creme fraiche. Enjoy!
I used half fresh goat cheese and half creamy goat cheese to approximate the consistency of cream cheese, but I imagine that you should be fine if you only have one or the other on hand. In addition, if you wanted to splurge for a more complex taste, I think Vermont Creamery fresh Crottin or any of their aged goat cheeses would be spectacular.
If you did want to bake these in a water bath, it's easy enough -- just place all the cocottes in a 9x13 glass dish and fill it with about an inch of water, then bake it in the glass dish. But they should be fine either way.